Fire stations are being trialled as new locations for Covid testing in parts of rural Scotland.
The scheme is being piloted in Thurso in the Highlands and in Lochgilphead, Argyll and Bute, in hopes it could help give people in rural and remote communities “more consistent” access to coronavirus testing.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the move was “critical” as Covid cases continue to rise across the country.
From Wednesday, January 6, people who live in either walking or driving distance of the fire stations in the towns will be able to call NHS Highland and request a test if they have symptoms of the virus.
Testing at the fire stations will be available from Monday to Friday, between 9am and 12.30pm, until January 29.
Residents will be able to test themselves at either site and leave it there for collection by a courier.
Alternatively, they can collect a test for someone else and return it to the fire station for courier collection.
As well as making the fire stations available, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will provide logistical support by ordering tests and storing samples prior to their collection by courier.
More consistent access to testing
Ms Freeman said: “Although there are currently a range of options for people in remote and rural areas to get tested, these options are not always convenient or on their doorstep.
“With this trial our aim is to give people with Covid symptoms in these areas more consistent access to testing and to see whether this approach could be adopted across other remote and rural areas of Scotland if successful.
“Our advice remains the same – if you develop Covid symptoms (new continuous cough, fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste), you should immediately self-isolate and book a test.
“This is especially critical against a backdrop of rising cases.
“I am grateful to the SFRS, Argyll and Bute Council, Highland Council and NHS Highland for their excellent partnership working in making this trial possible and for their ongoing support throughout the pandemic.”
It is imperative everyone in Scotland has access to consistent testing and particularly within our more rural and remote communities.”
Stuart Stevens, SFRS assistant chief officer
Assistant chief officer Stuart Stevens, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s director of service delivery, said the stations are “ideally placed” for testing facilities to support communities and reduce the need to travel to get tested.
Mr Stevens said: “Our fire stations at Thurso and Lochgilphead are ideally placed to facilitate the distribution, collection and storage of test kits within a safe and secure location, providing a service far closer to home for those who may unfortunately be experiencing Covid symptoms.
“Both stations will maintain the capability to respond to emergencies.
“It is imperative everyone in Scotland has access to consistent testing and particularly within our more rural and remote communities.
“We will continue to support the Scottish Government, our partners and communities wherever possible through this challenging time.”
Testing at the fire stations can be arranged by calling NHS Highland on 01463 706015.